Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

We the Privileged

Let us acknowledge today of all days that the democracy we set off fireworks to celebrate is still essentially a pipe dream. We the privileged can in no way inhabit a democracy until we fill in our own moats, open our gates, tear off our armor, drag our trunks of gold out into the courtyard and say “here, this wealth that we call ours has always belonged to you.”

I highly recommend you take a moment today to read the full article from which the excerpt below was taken. Consider it your patriotic duty.
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From Letter to my Son (in The Atlantic)

“There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream. And then they would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism.”

Rewiring

Our culture hardwires us believe that we are destined to find a soul mate to complete us. A family to complete us. Friends to complete us.

We have a different approach to plant life. Conventional wisdom says that the needs of plants are important but not more so than our own; we take care of them when life is good and forgive ourselves for not tending to them when life is difficult. We applaud their beauty, respect their longevity, and begrudgingly admire their tenacity, considering them “scenery,” a backdrop that might influence our lives but would never be permitted in the director’s chair.

I am inclined to believe we have our wires utterly crossed.

Imagine a culture that absolutely encourages its people to support their partner’s, family’s, friends’ needs — but not forsake their own. That offers ready forgiveness when one is unable to tend to the other in difficult times. That promotes lavish admiring of one another’s traits but ultimately expects each individual to sit in their own director’s chair, influenced by but not relinquishing control to their loved ones.

Appealing?

hubba hubba


Now imagine a culture that believes that animals and plants are destined to complete one another. Where just being together fulfills the primary need of both. A culture that overflows with manuals, mantras, and workshops on forming a more perfect union with one’s garden. That writes poems, songs, and dramedies about the primal dance of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The way each nourishes the other — even beyond death itself, the two merging into one. 

How one will die without the other.

That’s the world I choose to live in. Are you with me?

Our summer solstice circle this year

MEAT.

There is a quarter of a cow in our freezer. Squee!


There is a quarter of a cow in our freezer, and I don’t even know what all the parts are (but I’m excited to learn).


There is a quarter of a cow in our freezer and we know right where this cow lived.

The blueberries look terrified!


We know right where this cow lived, and it is a gorgeous place to call home.

Because Love

Tell me why the stars do shine

Tell me why the ivy twines

Tell me why the sky is blue

And I will tell you just why I love you

I sing this song to our kids frequently (it is the first song in Platypup’s “set” — each of our kids has a group of songs I’ve been singing them to sleep with since they were born). I love the melody and the imagery. I hear the usual version has something to do with god in the second verse, but my version is what my mom sang to my sister and I:

Because of our love the stars do shine

Because of our love the ivy twines

Because of our love the sky is blue

And now I’ve told you just why I love you

No song is safe around me, and I thought about writing my own version, with the scientifically accurate answers: “because of fusion the stars do shine; because of friction the ivy twines; because of Rayleigh scattering…” well, there’s where it loses that special something.

Lying in bed one morning last month, it occurred to me how well this song describes, well, love itself. Lasting love, anyway.

First you need that giddy, falling in love spark; aka fusion, the reason stars shine. Fusion, the smashing of two into a new wondrous one, with all the heat and exponential explosion of excess energy that comes with it. The stuff that literally powers life as we know it.

Then you need to make like ivy. See, ivy twines the way it does because it turns toward the direction of any friction it feels. Pull your mind out of the gutter, friend; that’s not where I’m headed with this one (though THAT kind of friction is also important). When obstacles get in the way of ivy, does it give up? Does it relinquish its hold on its entwining partner vine? It does not. Ivy always makes it through, with sheer persnick. Or at least it tries as hard as only an invasive vine can.

Equally important is your outlook. Why is the sky blue? Because gas molecules absorb and then release more blue hues than other colors, which are allowed to pass through the atmosphere mostly undetained. Nothing poisons a promising relationship faster than picking on the daily annoyances with which all of us plague our loved ones. Don’t turn the sky red over mislaid socks and refrigerator transgressions. Absorb the many minute moments of magnificence and then allow them to paint your beloved as the ever-changing, mysterious bright skyscape of a soul that they are.

Two years ago Thor and I hit the mud and nearly lost one another, due to mundane things like parenting and work schedules and non-mundane things like identity and spirituality. We would have, had that initial fusion not been refueled. Had we not clung like ivy. Had we not chosen to see blue.

Happy birthday, Thor! Thanks for making like stars, ivy, and the sky. I love you more than I can say, sing, write, or photograph, but these lines and pictures are trying their best anyway.


“Maturity is” (Announcing Kid-Friendly Quote of the Month!)

The kids and I are embarking upon a quote of the month venture. Feel free to join us! Each month we plan to choose a quote, discuss it, and hang it on the fridge for further pondering in the coming weeks.

This month’s quote is a handy definition from Dear Abby.

Maturity is:

  • The ability to stick with a job until it’s finished.
  • The ability to do a job without being supervised.
  • The ability to carry money without spending it.
  • The ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

The kids and I talked about what all of those words mean, why those four things are difficult, why they are important, how by this definition some preteens are more mature than some octogenarians , and how this differs from the official 18 years old = adult. I mentioned how it might not be a complete list so we brainstormed for other points to add to it but haven’t come up with any definite ones yet.

The Making of a Family

Thor and I are done creating new life. I knew this from the moment Cria arrived with exactly the same certainty I felt after Platypup was born and I was instantly, intensely aware that we had another babe waiting in the wings. Infant pajamas still render me weepy, newborn eyes hold me breathless, but our family is complete.

There are many rational reasons to be done: limited space in our house, limited zeros on our self-employed paychecks, limited sanity in our heads.

None of those are true reasons. You could squeeze six children into our three bedroom house if you really wanted to without anyone calling CPS. We are blessed with funds from deceased relatives to draw upon in tough times. And our missing marbles rolled away before our firstborn rolled over; additional kids just rattle the half-empty drawstring pouch some.

The truth is one does not simply add a child to a family as one might take a fifth towel and plop it onto a stack of four. Pregnancy in and of itself is a tax before any new person emerges, not just on the one bearing the child but also on the partner providing scaffolding and on any existing children whose still-wet clay forms bear the marks of every one of our choices. And every addition — no matter how beloved — every new addition cracks the familial structure wide open. Fractures its foundation, shatters its windows, and requires intense work rebuilding.

We may prefer not to recognize that our bundle of joy is a wrecking ball. But failing to acknowledge a fact never does seem to wither it one iota.

My solitude delighted in and was forever altered by my love for Thor. Our quirky twosome had a gorgeous miraculous iceburg crash headlong into it when our baby was born. The harmony of our family trio and the pea pod coziness of the parent-child duo groaned and stretched and made space for a sparkling quartet. The sturdy balance of our quadrilateral: two grown and two growing, two male and two female, two dependable and two incorrigible, as well as the comforting triangle of two small hands in my two big ones lay in ruins before reforming into the five pointed star we cherish today.

Every prior family unit must be cradled and mourned before the new larger family unit can properly set.

I am lucky. We are lucky. Each newcomer has been welcome, uncomplicated. We’ve only had to deal with increasing in size. All the cracks have been and continue to be painstakingly and willingly filled with copper and gems by loving hands. The choices I made were the ones my heart craved: to wed a person of heart, depth, and wit with whom to bear impish humans. 

I am not naive enough to believe the years ahead do not include their fair share of labor, but I’m no longer willing to intentionally launch the cycle of breaking and mourning and reforming the treasure that is our family. And so we have arrived at one of those moments when it is easy to see how the present alters past and future alike. Now we were always heading towards being a family of five. Now we will be remembered as a family of five even after we are all gone.

Co-Sleeping Haiku

Baby in the bed
An island, cozy and warm
In sheltering cove

Each night, like clockwork
Ere I’ve fully awakened
My breath restarts yours

Lungs, sensing a gap
Sharply inhale when you pause
And yours follow suit

You lie between us
Caramel robed in chocolate
All gooey sweetness

Night begins to fade
Two older fledglings fly home
One roosts beside me

Cramped, beloved nest
Our world for a few short years
A harbor of love

Shoes

I see your shoes there, discarded in the doorway, a microdune of sand beneath the right one, laces tumbling from the left. I must shrink to the size of a mouse so I can fit all the way inside.

It is dark, darker than I’d expected. And smellier. Turns out the flashy colors are only on the outside. In here it is dim, musty, with only a small circle of light near the opening.

How often am I the one shining more brightness into this space? How often am I instead casting shadows?

From the outside, a shadow upon a sneaker is an unnoticeable blip. Inside, it is an eclipse.

Why is it so hard, in the moment, to stop, shrink, and enter?

Your mere presence demands this of me.

I demand it of myself.

And yet it is only after the words have flown that I remember.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Even when I am unrested, unclean, unbalanced, unheeded.

Even when you are a tornado of irrationality.

The shape is a little different, and the size. The colors, especially the outer ones, and the smell; they are different, too. But the feeling — oh, I know it.

Like the back of my hand.

Like the sound of my mother’s voice.

Like a well-worn shoe.IMG_20160324_074305770 IMG_20160324_074216880

Refining Our Scholastic Balance

School decision making may be the most nerve-wracking of all the parental dilemmas.

Our country prides itself on being chock-full of choices (but without so much as a pamphlet to see us safely through). If you’ve ever been concerned about the toxins in your beauty products or the protein content in your pet’s diet, you know the time sinkhole that is internet research.

Now pretend that choice might make or break your child’s future happiness, their eventual career(s), the very wiring of their brain, not to mention all of your familial relationships, and you begin to grasp the enormity of what we parents are asked to do, not for ourselves, not on behalf of an adult or a teenager, but for a child just beginning to sprout, whose needs and desires are still partially obscured.

Way worse than shampoo or dog food. The columns of pros and cons run off into the distance like Platypup’s favorite number: infinity.

If you’ve been coming ’round these parts for awhile, you know I’ve been here before. Three years agoTwo and a half years ago… And most recently this past fall, when we actually enrolled both Owlet and Platypup for the first time.

If I’ve written at least five (six, now) posts on the subject, you know it’s been mulled over endlessly. Thor and I frequently discuss school matters using the semi-coded, intentionally complex language of parents within earshot of their children: “I got a phone message from the scholastic institution in the style of my early childhood and after we submit the appropriate forms on behalf of our male descendant we can observe the occupants in their native environment.” (Translation: the Montessori school says we can tour after turning in some initial paperwork for Platypup.) My friend Kula and I sip tea, commiserate, and take turns as sounding board. Her daughter is right between Owlet and Platypup in age and our opinions on educational philosophies and the various local schooling options always track closely in tandem; no one bears witness to my “what feels right?” soul-search better than she. I sneak-attack interview complete strangers whose offspring are homeschooled or who attend a school on my list. And of course when the moon is full, the cats noisy, or the children restless, I lie awake at night and relentlessly chart and rechart potential courses until I force myself to yoga-pee-meditate back to sleep.

Then a couple months ago, a new chapter in Owlet’s schooling jumped out and threw itself across our path.

Owlet began in the fall at a partial homeschooling program, which we enjoyed but quickly realized was probably not our home long-term due to its tiny size and undeviatingly standardized curriculum. As we explored other options, we came across another hybrid program that seemed much more our style. We applied in November to transfer (this year if possible or at the start of next school year if not) and waited.

We had resigned ourselves to the luck of the lottery for Fall 2016 and were in full on, baby-anytime mode when we got the call: there was an opening if we wanted to take it.

Thor and I tore our hair out a little over the timing of it all (a couple weeks before my due date) but we toured and adored it, took Owlet for a trial day at which she had a blast, and officially transferred… On what turned out to be two days before Cria’s birth.

Bam! Huge life transition times two.

It could easily have backfired, but the combination turned out to be perfect for Owlet. As much as she loved her new school, she was really, really, really sad to leave her first teacher, and a tiny baby sister was an ideal distraction. Her class of fellow kindergarteners and first graders has given her a wealth of friends — and Thor and I a pack of like-minded parents! The curriculum is whatever we want it to be, with expert guidance to take the hassle out of homeschooling. Instead of the worksheets and textbooks that prompted alarming statements like “I hate science,” we have interest-driven projects and research and games. Because the curriculum is so perfectly tailored to the individual student, I can say without hesitation that all three of our kids will thrive here. Maybe there’s a curveball in our future, but for now, this fits us to a T… I know, because my midnight agonizing on the subject has ceased, and with all the newborn nursing sessions and cramped co-sleeping configurations, that’s saying something!

  

   

Tangerines (and tupperware)

Some days our friendship is a tangerine
Ripe with laughter, wittily sour

Some days our friendship is a faded rose
With its musty scent of outgrown youth

Some days our friendship is a worn cotton cloth
Soothing fevers, binding wounds

Some days our friendship is a stalled car
Aching shoulders haul through the intersection

Some days our friendship is a word sung well
Summoning soul-dancing goosebumps

Some days our friendship is a pair of pennies
Almost forgotten but for a faint chime

And truly I cherish it as a coin just as much as a song
A wrecked car just as much as a fabric scrap
A boutonnière as much as a tangerine

For each has their place
And to do otherwise would be to leave fruit molding on the shelf
While eating dusty petals.

We two, we understand this
And so our friendship is the most tenacious of wildfowers.

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I say “we two” but am thinking of several people at once, folks who have hauled my sorry crumpled fender through more than I can recall and whose presence makes me happier than sushi (though the best, of course, is sharing sushi with these lovely souls). In addition to my beloved oldies-but-goodies I have been so fortunate this past year to find more and more kindred spirits, and I feel encircled now by people both local and far-flung who together form the village I once longed for, a village I am proud to call home.

A village that gifted us a bevy of meals for weeks after Cria’s birth! And a village, therefore, to whom I promise we will return jars, tupperwares, and casserole dishes one day soon… (Seriously! They are all clean and waiting for my scattered brain to remember to deliver them when next we meet.)

Here are the ones vacationing atop our fridge:

  

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